The Word of God recorded in Hebrews 11:24-26 is timely. It addresses all who enjoy presently the riches of our society and land. We read, “By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter; Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season; Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompense of the reward.” Moses had all the pleasures of sin and the treasures of Egypt at his disposal. He lived in the lap of luxury. All this as opposed to his fellow Israelites, who lived in poverty and under the heavy hand of persecution, being put to hard labor. Moses’ life was stress-free in contrast to his fellow countrymen, who lived under the heavy burden of Egypt’s hatred.
Yet, Moses made a choice. He did not have to. Though an Israelite by birth, he had been adopted by the king’s daughter and lived in prosperity and ease. But Moses chose rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the pleasures of sin. The question we must answer as we hear this Word of God is this: what choice do we make? We live in the lap of luxury too. The pleasures of sin are all around us. The riches of this world have been handed to us. Do we find the pleasures such riches can afford more important than casting in with the cause of Jesus Christ? One may not call himself a Christian while walking with and enjoying the sins of our present society. It is an easy thing to do, of course. The true believer is constantly under pressure by the wicked world. What is our response to the pleasures and treasures of this world? The example of Moses in our text inspires us to faithfulness to the cause of God in this world.
We already learned of Moses in our last broadcast. We discovered the amazing way God spared Moses’ life when he was an infant. Moses lived with his parents for the first few years of his life until the time the princess of Egypt sent and took Moses to the palace to live with her there. Moses is now 40 years old. In our standards this starts the period of middle-aged life. In the standards of people then, this was still considered young. After all, Moses was 80 years old when he actually did deliver Israel from Egypt. By that age we are retired and relaxing in our easy chairs. So, 40 was still young. At the age of 40, Moses made a move, so to speak, to deliver the nation of Israel from her bondage. How he planned to accomplish this we are not told. But certainly the plan of Moses was not God’s plan. God had something more amazing in store than Moses intended. But Moses already at this point in life understood that God would deliver Israel by his hand. But not now, not yet. First, Moses must forsake Egypt.
I. What He Did
In order to understand the faith of Moses, we must examine his place, first of all, in Egypt. As a young boy he was taken from his parents and home to the palace of the king of Egypt. He was adopted there by the daughter of Pharaoh and became a member of his household. By this he became known. He was the prince of Egypt and everything that this included. Such a position carried with it certain privileges. He had honor as a member of the royal household—honor as great as, if not greater than, Joseph when Joseph ruled. Moses had a certain amount of power and authority. Servants waited on him. He could order them about and they would heed his command. What is more, the treasures of Egypt were his. The luxuries and comforts of the palace. Wealth, great riches, we learn, were at his disposal. He had everything money could buy. The onions, leaks, and garlics were his. As we said earlier, his life was one of ease and security. He lacked nothing. The term “riches” in verse 26 literally means “plentitude” or “abundance,” while the term “treasures” refers to a storehouse of precious things, such as silver, gold, and precious jewels. In either case, we are presented with the picture here in our text that Moses was taken out of his poor surroundings, where his parents were subject to cruel labor, to a place of ease and comfort. From a place of work to a place where wealth provided for every luxury.
Added to this, we learn from our text, was that in the palace were found the pleasures of sin. This does not simply refer to the simple pleasures of life that we in our wealth enjoy too. But reference is here made to the allurements and temptations that money can afford and that draw us away from God and our calling as believers in this world. The pleasures of sin entice us to walk in the way of disobedience to God’s Word and commandments, to give in to the base lusts and desires of our sinful flesh. Such pleasures as greed, fornication, drunkenness, idolatry, and irresponsible living. That is, laziness, frivolous spending of our money, misuse of our time and talents, living only for fun, and such like. All this was a part of life in the palace of Pharaoh. All of this was at the fingertips of Moses as a young boy and as a young man. No one in the palace, such as parents or godly friends, were present to hold Moses in check if he were prone to fall into such sins.
There is one other advantage that Moses had in Egypt that is not included in our text. This was an advantage that also could make or break him as a young man growing up in the palace. Acts 7:22 informs us that Moses was a powerful man in Egypt in words and deeds because he was taught in all the wisdom of the Egyptians. Moses was a man of learning. He was not a slouch when it came to his education. He was taught in the sciences, the history, the advanced mathematics of the Egyptian people. He learned organizational skills and how to manage and lead people. Evidently he revealed his skills too by what he said and did. He was known in Egypt—and probably in Israel too—for his knowledge and understanding and powerful deeds. Here was this Hebrew man, taught in the ways of the Egyptians, with the honor and authority of the royal household. The Israelites in their envy probably wrongly perceived him as a traitor to their nation, one who stood aloof from them and despised them—all of which was not true.
For 40 years Moses lived in these conditions. At the age of 40 he made a choice. We read in verse 25 that Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt. It was not a choice God dragged him into making against his will. It was a conscious choice Moses made by means of the working of God’s grace in his heart.
As he grew, Moses’ eye was always upon his God’s people. Though an Egyptian in learning and wealth, Moses remained an Israelite in his heart. He had his plans. He was set to deliver his people from Egypt. What those plans were we never learn because God thwarted his plans. Moses had much to learn before he was ready to deliver this nation. Besides, the nation had not suffered enough. They were stubborn in their own sin, with no desire yet to be delivered. Moses, however, not realizing all this, decided to visit his brothers in Israel. He did not simply decide that he was going to pay a call on a family or two in Israel. He decided to take action. He decided that he would set in motion his plan. Why? Because this nation was his brethren. He loved this nation. He belonged to God’s cause and covenant together with them. So he visited them. One day, an Israelite was being beaten by one of his Egyptian taskmasters. Moses saved his life and killed the Egyptian. The next day Moses witnessed two Israelite men fighting with each other and he reproved them. Their answer shocked Moses! “Who made you a ruler or judge over us?” Truly, Israel was not ready to be delivered. Neither did they trust Moses to do this. But this act of Moses revealed the pure motive of his heart, his true desire to cast in his lot with God’s people.
At this point he made his choice: he refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He disregarded his place in the royal family. He did not want it. Israel was his family. He did not want to be known as part of the family of the heathen Pharaoh and his daughter. He preferred to return to his own family rather than to remain in the king’s courts. To Moses, the pleasures of sin were for a season, that is, fleeting and temporary. The pleasures that satisfied the lust of the flesh were not lasting. The things of God’s kingdom are forever! These he preferred over and above the pleasures of sin. All the treasures, pleasures, and wisdom of Egypt could not compare in his mind to his place in God’s church and covenant. He preferred to suffer affliction with the people of God.
Imagine that, young people who may be listening! He chose the church above all the pleasures of this world. He preferred to walk in God’s ways with His people than to join hands with the wicked of this world in their pleasures. Moses had it all! He would rather give it all up to cast in his lot with the people of God. Belonging to God and His kingdom meant more to Moses than all the treasures and wealth of Egypt. More than all the pleasures of sin, that is, the laziness, frivolous spending of money, misuse of time and talents, living only for fun, and such like. How are we doing in comparison to Moses? There was nothing stopping him, of course. No checks and balances of church or parents or godly companions. Moses stood alone by faith!
II. Why He Did It
This is why Moses did what he did: he lived by faith. From a personal point of view it would have been much easier for him to stay in Egypt and enjoy his name and prestige. He could have reasoned to himself: “I’m only one man. What can one man do to deliver an entire nation of people. There is no sense in trying. Besides, it is more advantageous for Israel if I remain where I am.” But Moses was persuaded in his heart—as had been Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—of the blessing God promised to the nation of Israel. This blessing not only included, remember, the land of Canaan, but the heavenly country that Canaan pictured. But the only witness to Moses of this blessing was God’s promise made to the patriarchs. It was a promise passed down through the generations of the church then, a promise that lived in the hearts of God’s people. How often the words of God to Abraham must have been repeated to Moses when he was a little child in the home yet of his parents: “I am your God and you are my people.” How often the history of his forefathers must have been discussed when Moses, having grown older, might have visited with fellow Israelites. Moses knew of the promise. But he could see nothing of that promise with his eyes. He could only see it with the eyes of faith. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. Such faith characterized Moses.
God worked such faith in him. God graciously renewed his heart, perhaps already as a child. The things he was taught while yet in his parents’ home became firmly planted in his young heart. Even in a strange environment where little could grow, it seems his faith grew and came to fruition. He did not partake of the sinful pleasures of Egypt. He was strong in faith. Though the temptations were all around him, he believed in God. God had instilled in his heart a love for God. He feared God much more than he feared the wrath of the king, as we will learn next week, the Lord willing. Moses knew of God’s covenant with him and the people of Israel. He knew of his Messiah that was to come, in whom his sins were forgiven.
In this knowledge he was confident that everything God had promised His people would indeed come true. His actions at this point reveal that faith. Moses did not kill the Egyptian taskmaster out of a fit of anger. This was his first move to deliver Israel. By faith Moses, when come to years, that is, when he had come to the years of his life when he was capable of making decisions for himself, cast in his lot with God’s people.
What about us, fellow believers? Do we refuse the pleasures and treasures of this world? Do we live out of faith in the blessed promises God gives His people today yet? Do we live in fellowship with God and refuse that of the world? These questions stand out in the account we learn of today. The temptations of this world are an ever-present danger.
By faith Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the earthly treasures of Egypt. Who dare say that the saints in the Old Testament were not saved by faith in Christ? This passage of Scripture proves many wrong when they claim that the Old Testament saints were saved by the laws of Moses and not Christ. The Christ in the Old Testament was known as the coming Messiah, the Hebrew term for Christ. This Messiah was the Promised One—the One who would fulfill all the promises given to the fathers. By faith Moses knew this Messiah, confessed Him, and cast in his lot with Him and His cause in this world. But that meant bearing Christ’s reproach. Christ’s reproach is the shame and disgrace heaped upon Christ that resulted in His painful death on the cross as a criminal. Those who are in Christ must bear His part in that reproach or shame of Christ. That is a reality we face today too, you realize. When we cast in our lot with the cause of Christ in this world as did Moses, we will suffer reproach. We will be shunned, ignored, looked at as strange, and even hated for Christ’s sake. We ought to expect no different. By faith Moses was willing to suffer the reproach the people of Israel then experienced.
No, actually Moses esteemed, that is, preferred, chose, to take on himself that reproach of Christ as greater riches than the treasures of Egypt! Imagine that! He believed that the shame he would experience for Christ’s sake was of greater value than all the earthly wealth of Egypt! By faith we can fully understand why Moses esteemed the reproach of Christ! It is of greater value! It has eternal value! Through His reproach Christ earned for us the eternal riches of heaven and all the blessings that accompany it in this life. These riches will never disappear. The treasures of this world, all the luxuries and comforts we now enjoy, are but for a season. They are temporal and will soon disappear. With the eyes of faith we are given to see this reality. The believer is willing to suffer the reproach of Christ because belonging to Christ is in itself the greatest blessing one could ever receive from the hand of God. We are confident that all of this is true, though the blessings we receive are not seen with the eye. Faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.
III. What He Desired
We learn of Moses’ true desire at the conclusion of verse 26, “he had respect for the recompense of the reward.” This cannot be separated, of course, from what we have just explained. But the conclusion of this verse brings up an important truth. Moses chose the reproach of Christ for, or because, he had respect unto the recompense of the reward. Literally we read, “he looked away to the reward.” In other words, by faith Moses looked away from his present position in Egypt with its pleasures and treasures and he looked to the reward that awaited the people of God—yes, in Canaan, but ultimately in heaven. Such a reward was incentive to him to give up what he had in order to pursue the cause of Israel. By faith the believer embraces what God promises. God promises a reward—a payment due, a recompense, a remuneration. Faith lays hold on this. Moses looked for this when he acted in faith. He looked for that city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. That was incentive for him—just as it is for us.
Does reaching out to this reward have anything to do with our righteousness before God? Of course not! Does it have anything to do with the cause of our salvation? No. Faith as to our righteousness before God looks to the work of Jesus Christ alone. But faith, apart from our justification, does embrace what God promises to us as a recompense of the reward. Moses looked at this and desired this. So do we! We in faith look for the payment of wages due us at the end of time. Wages that are paid only through the precious work of Christ on the cross. But a reward that is ours by God’s grace on the basis of what Christ has done. That reward gives us incentive in this life to look away from the things that are below to the things that are above. As Paul writes in II Corinthians 4:18, “We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.” Such faith also motivated Moses to forsake Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king. Such we examine in our next broadcast.